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On the Lam(b): Rare Coins, Valentines, and Mars Bars on "Veronica Mars"

Um, wow. I don't know about you but I didn't see that one coming.

I'm talking, naturally, about last night's episode of Veronica Mars ("Mars Bars"), which gave a us a much-needed one-two punch to our collective solar plexus in the form of the death of a much beloved (or maligned depending on your viewpoint) character who has been a major part of the series since the pilot.

I'm extremely glad that the CW didn't blow this one by endlessly touting the death of a character in the promos, but when when the end did come it was definitely a surprise, and a really depressing one at that.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the two-parter format, which gave the writers (John Enbom and Phil Klemmer) a chance to create a really intricate, multi-layered standalone mystery that managed to be engaging and thought-provoking. Unlike some of the single-episode mysteries, the basketball coach's murder offered some surprising twists and turns, enabled by the fact that they had two episodes to spill over into. If Rob Thomas and the CW plan to do away with the overarching mysteries in the future, perhaps the two-episode format is a worthy compromise in the end.

While Veronica managed to solve the case (though sort of helped to aid and abet the prime suspect, innocent though he may be), I'll leave that discussion alone to focus on the big things, instead. Like that aforementioned death of a major character. I had a bad feeling when Sheriff Lamb went into the O'Dell's house with only Sachs as backup, but when Lamb took out that offending mirror with a shot, I felt the mood deflate. Whew. Um, wrong. Mindy's drug addict ex-hubby Steve Botando (guest star Richard Grieco) attacks him from behind with a baseball bat and continued to pummel him on the ground. (That, kids, is why you never lower your gun in a home invasion situation.) Sachs and Keith--who had shown up at the O'Dells' after all--rush in as poor Lamb lays, hovering between life and death, on the floor.

Lamb does manage to offer one last line before he goes into the good night: "It smells like bread."

Truly heartbreaking.

I'm for one glad that Rob Thomas and Co. never made Lamb a sympathetic character in the end; we were given a slight glimpse into his past (and offered a glimmer of humanity) when it was revealed that the not-so-good Sheriff was possibly abused as a child. But ultimately what made Lamb such a fun character (along with a gleeful performance by Michael Muhney) was his sharp edges. Thanks to his death, those edges will never get a chance to soften into something mushy or congenial. No, Lamb died as he lived: arrogant, boorish, and plunging headlong into sudden death without a second thought. He'll be missed.

I'm very excited to see where Keith's new role as re-appointed town sheriff takes him. I know that it's always been in the cards to have Keith come full circle and regain his sheriff's badge and I'm glad that, with a possible cancellation (please god, no!) looming, we'll at least get to see Keith fulfill his destiny as the law and order around Neptune. And, with only a few episodes remaining, I'm glad Rob Thomas decided to give Keith his due now rather than wait until (hopefully) Season Four to do so. I can't wait to see what happens!

Meanwhile, we did get some further clues into Dean O'Dell's death, which looks likely to wrap up next week. Looks like Veronica and Keith didn't exactly get the time of death right, after all; that ear witness who heard the shot pinpointed it around the time that Space Ghost was going on, but thanks to a time-delay on Channel 9 for sports, the episode in question was actually on an hour later that previously thought. Which means that the whole who-took-Mindy's-car-from-the-hotel question is now invalidated as the timing is completely off.

Then there's the blood-stained shirt (monogrammed no less with Professor Landry's initials) and gloves that Weevil found stashed in the school's basement. Was it meant to have been disposed of (and destroyed) or was it planted there? (An odd place to plant something, regardless, with very little chance of it being found.)

Fingerprints found on O'Dell's computer keyboard (the "suicide note" was typed after all) are matched to Mindy O'Dell's ex-husband Steve Botando but he's convinced she's trying to frame him. Even though he probably didn't prove his innocence by, you know, murdering Sheriff Lamb or anything.

And finally there's the matter of the listening device planted inside Professor Landry's mobile phone. If Veronica and Keith didn't plant that, then who did? (TA Tim?) Or is Landry toying with them as they inch closer to fingering him as the killer? Did he cause a huge stink in order to get them to back off? If so, he's more devious (and far more clever) than I thought. But the use of Veronica's perfect murder paper makes him far too obvious a killer. So is he covering for Mindy? And just what happened that night in the hotel room and what was said between Landry, Mindy, and O'Dell? Curious.

(Personally, I've been thinking the reason Mindy can't remember seeing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, is because Landry drugged her and snuck out, but made sure to choose a film he'd already seen in case he was questioned.)

Is it just me or were Mac and Bronson absolutely adorable last night? It's fantastic finally seeing Mac in a healthy sexual relationship and it's about time as the poor girl has earned it, after everything she went through with Cassidy last season. The Valentine's scavenger hunt was a lot of fun, especially as a heartbroken Logan was dragged into it by Mac. It was a perfect twist to see loner Logan suddenly surrounded by our much-missed supporting cast... and the unexpected sparks between Logan and Parker. (I actually think they are a great couple... and it would leave the door open for a possible Veronica/Piz relationship. Tee hee.) LOVED that, after all of their hard work, they still came in third place (or "second loser," as Mac noted). If there's one thing this show isn't, it's overly sentimental. And that's just how I like it.

Next week on Veronica Mars ("Papa's Cabin"), it's the conclusion of the Dean O'Dell mystery as Veronica catches creepy TA Tim Foyle breaking into the Mars Investigations offices, Keith questions Mindy makes he believe Hank Landry killed O'Dell, while Wallace notices Logan and Parker canoodling at lunch. Have I said how much I love this show?

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Jericho (CBS); Friday Night Lights (NBC); Beauty & the Geek (CW); George Lopez/Knights of Prosperity (ABC); American Idol (FOX; 8-10); Wicked Wicked Games (MyNet)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS); Deal or No Deal (ABC); One Tree Hill (CW); Lost (ABC); American Idol (FOX); Watch Over Me (MyNet)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Medium (NBC); Lost (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Beauty & the Geek.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for Beauty & the Geek. It might not be the most original or thought-provoking reality TV series on the air, but this "social experiment" from "Ashton Kutcher" always makes me chuckle. On tonight's episode ("Beauties and Geeks Reunite"), it's a reunion episode as the beauties and geeks all reunite in New York to take a look back at some of the memorable scenes from this past season, while everyone at home gets an update on where they are now (and if their hairsyles reverted to pre-makeover days).

8 pm: Jericho.

Jericho returns tonight with brand-new episodes after it's recent winter hiatus; for a sneak peek of tonight's flashback-laden episode, look no further than here.

8-10 pm: American Idol.

Tonight, it's the ladies' turn to perform as the top 12 female contestants take the stage.

9 pm: Lost.

If you missed last week's stunner of an episode ("Flashes Before Your Eyes"), here's your chance to catch it. Or if you're still puzzling over the craziness that was Fionnula Flanagan's turn as the jewelry-selling Ms. Hawkins, watch it all over again.

10 pm: Lost.

I can't tell you how happy I am that Lost is back on the air again. On tonight's episode ("Stranger in a Strange Land"), there's a power struggle between Jack and the Others following the completion of Ben's surgery, Kate, Sawyer, and Karl continue their flight from "Alcatraz." And the answer to three burning questions, including what happened to the kids taken from the tail section, what the Others want, and what the deal is with flight attendant Cindy. I cannot bloody wait!

Comments

The CineManiac said…
This was one of my favorite episodes of the season. Any episode that has Mac, Parker, Lamb, Wallace, Weevil, Vinnie Van Lowe, Family Friend Lawyer (You know the one whose name I just forgot) all in one episode is alright with me. I just wish they had thrown Piz in to the mix, even if it was for just a walk by.
But the episode was wonderful all around, even if I had figured out that Coach had offed himself, but I never realized he'd had help.
But above-all it was a sad farewell to one of my favorite characters. Lamb always was one everyone loved to hate, but even as awful as he was at his job, he could always make us laugh and smile. And the other characters played off him amazingly, case in point the entire Wizard of Oz conversation between Lamb and Wallace was brilliant "He said your the only Sheriff he knows whose a "friend of Dorothy"" That's Brilliant stuff!
When lamb was beat up and bleeding I told my wife he wouldn't die because he was such a fan favorite. Boy was I wrong! I didn't see it coming and I think my jaw might have hit the floor when Keith go the call. And his death doesn't even open up a mystery for Miss Mars to solve!
Michael Muhney will be sorely missed.
rockauteur said…
As Cinemaniac points out, it was nice to see almost all of the supporting characters return to VM. I almost hoped that when the camera was back at Valentines Day Scavenger Hunt headquarters, we would see Piz rocking the radio mic. Alas, hopefully he will make an appearance in next week's winter finale.

I will definitely miss Sheriff Lamb. I was hoping he would have a glimmer of redemption (besides the alluding to his possible child abuse plotline) before his death and I am glad that the CW didn't hype it up, because it then became unexpected and poignant. While I hated him, he was a great character, and a great foil to Veronica (who now needs a new one).

I'm glad to see TA Tim Foyle back in the saddle next week and I only hope that we get to see more Weevil than just him finding the murder clothes.

I really hope CW gives this show another chance - I would love to see CW carry this show throughout Veronica in college... and then onto the FBI. If anything, would love to see Veronica interning at the FBI. I think it would be an amazing show to follow her through to that world.
Anonymous said…
I am so with cinemaniac - it was favorite character overload, but in a great way. Any ep w/Vinnie is good with me.

Mac was totally adorable.

Wallace's "Friend of Dorothy" line was great.

Logan and Parker - interesting, but I still want Logan and V to work it out. I loved the jail scene between them.

Lamb. Wow. I did not see that coming at all. Very sad. I will definitely miss him. Like you said, I always liked that they kept him true to character.

I must have had a psychic flash, because earlier in the ep I was trying to remember exactly why Keith lost his bid for Sheriff. I remember that he was leading and then something happened. He was accused of being involved in something? Anyway, my train of though led me to thinking that I wonder if he would ever try again. Psychic flash, I tell you! Sad ending, but I loved seeing Keith in his uniform again.

Veronica's jail scenes were great, and it's another reminder of the great talent of Ms Bell.
This was one of my favorite episodes of the season too. Michael Muhney was wonderful as the arrogant Sheriff Lamb and he will definitely be missed. Kudos to the CW for keeping his death under wraps. I hate it when shows go with the old SOMEONE WILL DIE! promo. It's much more interesting when it's a surprise.

The sparks between Parker and Logan were a nice surprise and I loved Veronica and Papa Mars' banter when she was behind bars. It will be very interesting to see Keith back in the sheriff's saddle but I hope that this doesn't foreshadow the end of the show. I will be extremely upset if it doesn't come back next season!!!
Unknown said…
Finally, a major surprise that the network didn't promo to death! And I was really surprised even though the "I smell bread" comment had already clued me in to major brain damage. (More than before anyway. Heh.)

I hope they don't pull the same pseudo-angst with Veronica/Logan/Parker that The Office is with Pam/Jim/Karen. Ladies/Gentlemen, if you pass on a man/woman, it's OKAY, nay, EXPECTED for them to move on! You can mope, but you can't blame or undermine.

I liked the two-parter aspect more than I thought I would, but I still prefer the 8-ep format even more. I think I'm convinced that the 22-ep arc stretched out the mystery too long though.

As much as I love VM, they made (IMO) a fatal mistake when they pulled the Different Murder Time Ploy out of their back pocket. One of the appeals of whodunits is that the audience gets all the clues that the protagonists have. It's not fair for the protagonist to say in Act III, "But remember that he used to work as a left-handed, one-legged clown in Denver."
The CineManiac said…
One more thing regarding the "SOMEONE WILL DIE!!!" tactics most networks use it's funny that in the same week that Heroes (which I Love) used that exact tactic and failed (really shes the big death, was anyone supposed to care?!?!?) that the CW shows restraint and pulls off one of the best character deaths in a long time, made that much better by not hyping the Shizzle out of it.

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